Boundaries and Encroachments

Are you a neighbor of City park land? City park lands include developed parks, playgrounds and trails, undeveloped greenspaces, and streets that have been designated as park boulevards. These park lands are Seattle's natural treasures and home to many native species of plants, birds and animals. To help preserve and protect these valuable areas, the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation wants to work with neighbors and others who enjoy our parks to clarify boundaries and promote the proper use of park lands.

Where are the boundaries?
Boundaries along park lands, especially undeveloped areas and boulevards, are often difficult to locate exactly. Many park areas have not been surveyed or are not clearly marked on the ground. Existing fences or landmarks may not be reliable. Lines determined from plat maps, utility lines, roadways, or various commercially produced maps may not be accurate. Don't just "eyeball" it.

What is an encroachment?
Encroachment is the unlawful, unauthorized, or unpermitted use of the property of another. An encroachment is often thought of as a structure, such as a fence or part of a building, but an unauthorized use, such as parking, a storage area or garden, may also be considered an encroachment.

Encroachments on public land often include:

  • buildings or structures, such as garages, sheds, fences, playhouses or tree houses, swing sets or other play equipment;
  • private-use areas, such as parking spaces, patios, gardens, play or sport areas;
  • storage areas for belongings, such as boats, RV's, firewood, gardening equipment;
  • "stuff you usually keep out of sight", such as trash cans, compost bins, yard waste piles, junk cars, dumping of other debris or litter;
  • privately installed landscaping, such as hedges or borders that "claim" public property or limit the public's use or enjoyment of it.

There is no adverse possession of public property, which means private owners cannot establish rights to City land by using it for a number of years. The Department may issue permits which allow very limited, temporary non-park use of park lands. To obtain an application form, please contact us at 206-233-7935 or email

What about driveway access along park boulevards?
Property owners living adjacent to park boulevards often have rights of access, even if not explicitly defined in land ownership documents. Contact us with questions about individual access.

What's wrong with dumping yard waste?
Lawn clippings and yard waste may seem harmless, but piles of this kind of waste can kill everything they cover including tree roots. They may also present a fire hazard, attract rodents, or contribute to the instability of slopes. Yard waste can be composted, used as mulch, or disposed of through the City's "clean green" yard waste collection program or at City transfer sites. For information, please call Seattle Solid Waste Utility at 684-3000.

Are there restrictions on tree cutting or pruning?
Cutting, pruning or trimming of trees or plants on park property is not allowed EXCEPT by permit. Trees are an invaluable asset to the beauty and health of our park system. Untrained "topping" or "chopping" to improve a view, or for any other reason, can permanently damage or kill a tree. In areas where trees are mature and reaching the end of their lifespan, the Department works with community groups to develop and implement reforestation projects. For more information please call the department's Green Seattle Program at 206-615-1046. If you have questions about view trimming or tree safety or want to obtain a tree cutting permit, please call the Department's Arborist at 206-386-1688.

Is it OK to clear out low vegetation from park lands?
Generally, NO. Trees, shrubs, and plant life in our park system not only contribute to a neighborhood's beauty and character, but they also provide unseen benefits such as runoff buffering, slope stabilization and habitat for wildlife. "Cleaning up" the undergrowth disturbs the protective ground layer which is essential to a healthy forest and may destroy shelter and food sources for native birds and small animals. The natural habitat can be enhanced by planting desired native trees and shrubs and managing the existing vegetation. The Department works with volunteers through the Adopt-A-Park program to eliminate noxious weeds, such as non-native blackberry and ivy, and re-establish native plants on park lands. To help in this effort, call 684-4075 for information on Adopt-A-Park.

You can contact the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at 360-902-2515 for more information on landscaping for wildlife habitat.

What can you do to be a good neighbor?
Maintaining and enhancing the natural beauty of our park lands is a BIG JOB. If you would like to volunteer your time and talent to help, please call 684-4075 for information about the Adopt-A-Park program.